Acute renal metabolic effect of metformin assessed with hyperpolarised MRI in rats

Diabetologia. 2018 Feb;61(2):445-454. doi: 10.1007/s00125-017-4445-6. Epub 2017 Sep 21.


Aims/hypothesis: Metformin inhibits hepatic mitochondrial glycerol phosphate dehydrogenase, thereby increasing cytosolic lactate and suppressing gluconeogenesis flux in the liver. This inhibition alters cytosolic and mitochondrial reduction-oxidation (redox) potential, which has been reported to protect organ function in several disease states including diabetes. In this study, we investigated the acute metabolic and functional changes induced by metformin in the kidneys of both healthy and insulinopenic Wistar rats used as a model of diabetes.

Methods: Diabetes was induced by intravenous injection of streptozotocin, and kidney metabolism in healthy and diabetic animals was investigated 4 weeks thereafter using hyperpolarised 13C-MRI, Clark-type electrodes and biochemical analysis.

Results: Metformin increased renal blood flow, but did not change total kidney oxygen consumption. In healthy rat kidneys, metformin increased [1-13C]lactate production and reduced mitochondrial [1-13C]pyruvate oxidation (decreased the 13C-bicarbonate/[1-13C]pyruvate ratio) within 30 min of administration. Corresponding alterations to indices of mitochondrial, cytosolic and whole-cell redox potential were observed. Pyruvate oxidation was maintained in the diabetic rats, suggesting that the diabetic state abrogates metabolic reprogramming caused by metformin.

Conclusions/interpretation: This study demonstrates that metformin-induced acute metabolic alterations in healthy kidneys favoured anaerobic metabolism at the expense of aerobic metabolism. The results suggest that metformin directly alters the renal redox state, with elevated renal cytosolic redox states as well as decreased mitochondrial redox state. These findings suggest redox biology as a novel target to eliminate the renal complications associated with metformin treatment in individuals with impaired renal function.

Keywords: Diabetes; Hyperpolarised MRI; Metformin; Renal function; Renal metabolism; Renal redox.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytosol / drug effects
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Female
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Metformin / pharmacology*
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Streptozocin / pharmacology


  • Streptozocin
  • Metformin